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To get 24-bit/192kHz from Vista Laptop today, go the Studio gear or the Audiophile gear route?


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Hi there,

 

After extensive web searching to find a 24-bit/192kHz capable DAC that runs from Vista and is available today, I'm considering whether I should go the 'studio' route instead of the 'Audiophile' route for a DAC.

 

Btw with 'studio gear' I mean devices that do DA as well as AD, that are targeted at musicians and recording engineers. I'm only interested in the DA part, but nevertheless there seem to be some interesting devices out there...

 

I'm hoping someone here has experience with both types of devices and can comment on how gear targeted at these two audiences generally compare sound-wise?

 

It seems to me the audiophile gear is just not as mature yet in the 24/192 Computer area as the studio gear is. This is only logical, since recording is always done before reproduction ;-), so the gear follows in that order when crossing into new territories. It's just timing I guess, but I kind of hope I'm mistaken here...

 

Here's some backgound:

 

I am looking to get a DAC that is capable of rendering all hi-res music to it's full potential from my Windows Vista (32 bit) powered laptop (which has USB and FireWire, although I'm not sure whether this is 4-pin or 6-pin firewire, this seems to matter for some DACs). I don't want the DAC to become outdated (with respect to HR music) in a couple of years, so I'm looking for a DAC that supports the highest resolution (24/192) and has stable, up-to-date Vista drivers.

 

My main listening is through Grado RA 1 and RS 1. I want to avoid rolled-off / relaxed / laid-back sound, but I really like the extended highs, can't get enough of detail, and the lows and mids as I hear them in the "Grado sound". I don't need the DAC to be a headphone amp (don't mind if it does that as well though ), and I'm not going the balanced route.

 

I've been searching the net for some time now, and this is what I found so far:

(Possible) dead-ends

  • No one is doing 24/192 over USB yet. They just haven't catched up yet. Bummer.
    Update: there IS one piece of studio gear that does do this over USB 2.0: see the studio gear list below
  • Some devices that do 24/192 over firewire are mac-oriented and won't support Vista. E.g. the Apogee Mini-DAC supports Windows XP but Apogee confirmed to me they have no plans to support Windows Vista. What a shame, this looked like great value!
  • I also read that some firewire DACs require a firewire port with 6 pins connected, not a 4-pin as - according to the DAC manufacturer - is commonly found in Windows laptops. I forgot which DAC this was, but it adds another - unwelcome - compatibility concern.
  • The Weiss Minerva firewire DAC looks very promising but it's unclear whether it is really available (Chris mentioned recently he received a pre-production model) and it may be relatively expensive (a forum member mentioned $4500) compared to the "studio gear" below.
  • I don't know of any other 24/192 firewire capable DACs ... anyone?

 

After looking for "firewire DAC", 24/192 and Vista support I found these possible studio gear solutions so far:

  • M-Audio FireWire 410 $400
  • RME FireFace 400 $1500
  • Edirol/Roland FA-66 $240 - $390
  • Edirol/Roland FA-101 $600
  • Update: Edirol/Roland UA-101 this is the USB 2.0 (!) version of the FA-101, for about the same price. So someone IS doing 24/192 over USB after all... This device has a speed switch with which you can set it back to USB 1.1 for compatibility - you'll be "limited" to "2-in/2-out 24 Bit/96 kHz Audio interface", though.
  • Update 2: E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 $200.
    Another USB 2.0 24/192 DAC that is supported on Vista. It has auto-detect output level for consumer (unbalanced, +6dBV) and professional (balanced, +12 dBV) electronics. This review is very positive and offers lots of measurements. Seems great value for money.

 

After reading the specs on the above "studio" gear, I got the impression that 24/192 DA from Vista was much less "bleeding edge" - meaning less chance on misery - than the audiophile-targeted gear, and to boot - look at the prices!

 

I do have the concern that buying more features than you need for less money might mean that performance with the features that you do want will not be so good. But this may well be counteracted by economical effects of a more experienced market and possibly a bigger target audience at this point in time; today there may well be a bigger market for low-end musician / recording engineer gear than for high-end computer based audiophile gear...

 

So, since auditioning this stuff is hardly possible for me, is there anyone here that can shed some light on this based on experience with how this gear sounds? Much appreciated.

 

Btw I hope that other people may find the info I listed here valuable in their own quest for sound...

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Hi Vince,

 

I'm not going to be able to help you with your stragegy, but I may with tactics!

 

I have a M Audio 410 new in the box, never plugged in. I think I might have tried to load the driver disc. Probably about 4 months old and probably still under warranty. So it would be open box, never used.

 

I bought it when we got a new iMac and at the time they had no driver, silly me for not checking. I also bought a M-Audio USB Audiophile external which I fiddle with now. Again, at the time they had no driver, I waited on that one.

 

If you are interested I'd sell the 410 for say $160 delivered continental USA.

 

I wanted to use the 410 to try ripping records, but I will probably just get a USB turntable, I'm getting lazy.

 

Either way good luck in your hunt.

 

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.. Hey TUBER! HORNS RULE, DUDE!! ( I'm trying to get another horn lovin' bud of mine to try what we are doing - will tell him of your offer)

 

VincentH ( hey there, and welcome to C/A) I own an RME FF400. Street price (in the US) is $999.99. DO THAT. Just my opinion based on my experience with all the stuff on your list EXCEPT the M-Audio.

 

I love this thing! No issues whatsoever. GREAT sound (stop yelling, Mark!) I'm using it on a Mac though. While my PC (WinXP Pro) is capable of using it, I haven't used it on the PC yet (I have an Echo PCI-based A/D/A on that one that suites me just fine). It appears to me that RME really is PC oriented, and Mac is an afterthought (sort of - it is really well-implemented on Mac as well).

 

ONE problem: The FF400 doesn't list VISTA in it's compatibility list on the website at this point. Contact a Dealer (Sweetwater is my fave) to check progress on that issue as these things change more rapidly than website updates do.

 

markr

 

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Hi Vincent - Thanks you for all that detail. You are 100% right about other people finding your post valuable. I think you are correct on all the possible dead-ends and the possible solutions. Weiss Engineering also has a product called the Vesta that is the same as the Minerva, but doesn't have a DAC built-in. This would allow you to get up to 192 from your PC and go into the DAC of your choice. If the Vesta isn't available right this moment you could always start with a DAC and add this unit when it is readily available.

 

The FireFace is raved about in many circles and I really respect Mark's opinion on the unit. If you can you should check on out.

 

I also think waiting for a Minerva is an awesome route. I am in the middle of my review and I can tell you the performance is stellar. Only you can decide if the price is reasonable for you.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thx for the offer Innertuber! This sure would be temping if you lived in the Netherlands like I do. However international shipping, payment, customs etc is all just too much hassle for me, guess I'm getting lazy also ;-). The unit is available here as well for a reasonable price.

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Hi Markr,

 

Thx for the advice, I'l be sure to check out availability in the Netherlands.

 

Concerning Vista compatibility, their website offers this download: "Windows 2000 SP4, XP, XP 64, Vista and Vista 64 PnP driver for Fireface 400 / 800, version 2.89."

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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You're welcome, Chris :-) Based on your (and markr's) advice, I will give the FireFace some serious consideration. And of course I'm really looking forward to your Minerva review. I'm also very curious about what it's price will be in Europe. I'll try to hold out long enough for the Minerva details before I make my choice ... oh, the agony ;-)

 

Btw, I did find one device that is capable of 24/192 over USB (2.0), though: the Edirol UA-101. I updated the topic on that.

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Hey Vincent - I looked into the Edirol UA-101 just now and read the manual pretty thoroughly. I think all the readers here should know this is not a standard type of DAC with normal consumer audio connections. Also, it requires some serious software configuration compared to USB 1.1 24/96 DACs which require virtually no software or configuration.

So, if anyone is interested in this DAC please read the manual to make sure this DAC is for you.

 

This could be a really nice DAC if it fits your needs, so please don't think I am bashing it for its feature set :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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One more note:

 

This DAC only supports up to 48 kHz via USB 1.1. The bottom of page 14 in the manual states the following.

 

"[Limitations in Full-Speed USB mode (USB 1.1, 12 Mbps)]

• Only sample rates of 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz can be used.

 

If the sample rate select switch is set to any position other than 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz, the USB indicator (17) will blink, and the UA-101 will not operate. "

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thorough as always, Chris! I did realize the "downsides" of this studio gear you mentioned while I was researching for myself, and I'm glad that you mention them for the benefit of others. I sure would not want to lead anyone into trouble.

 

Here's some elaboration on your points and I also have some questions on risks related to the type of connections this studio gear offers:

 

Edirol UA-101 limitations with USB 1.1 mode

It seems that Edirol is contradicting itself on the USB 1.1. limitations. If you look here on their site, it says:

 

"The UA-101 has a Hi-SPEED (480 Mbps, USB 2.0) or Full-SPEED (12 Mbps, USB 1.1) selection switch on rear panel. In Hi-SPEED mode, the UA-101 gives you full performance as multi-track recording audio interface. In Full-SPEED mode, the UA-101 performs as a 2-in/2-out 24 Bit/96 kHz Audio interface, which is compatible with CoreAudio in Mac OS X, ASIO 2.0 in Mac OS 9, and WDM & ASIO2.0 in Windows drivers for Low Latency with most audio applications."

 

Which contradicts the limitations stated in the manual. Better safe than sorry... if I would go for this device I would ask Edirol for clarification on this in advance.

 

Complex device configuration with "studio gear"

I also recognize that the "studio gear" devices are by design very flexible and therefore much more complex to configure than the pure DACs, with also inherent more risk of software issues. As an IT guy, I like to avoid complexity when possible but I'm not afraid of it. But I would not consider this type of gear if I was not comfortable fiddling with complex software/hardware.

 

Non-consumer type connections on "studio gear"

Thx for the warning, Chris! I did wonder about the implications of connecting the type of analogue out-connections much of this studio gear has. What exactly would be the implications if I want to connect to e.g. my Grado RA 1 Headphone Amp's input (RCA) from "1/4 inch TRS phone type (balanced))" outputs?

 

From some googling I gather that TRS is balanced and TS is unbalanced, as is RCA. It is said to be possible to use TS plugs in TRS outputs, so then a TS-RCA cable would do the trick, and they do seem readily available. I also gather that the output levels of studio gear is sometimes very different from what consumer-type devices expect as input. But admittedly, I have zero experience with all of this.

 

It seems the studio gear route has potential dead-ends of it's own. Am I getting myself into real trouble here? Anyone here who has connected TRS to RCA, what were the results?

 

I once spent an entire day at a high-end shop, trying out all RCA interconnects between my CD player and my headphone amp and I noticed big differences in how I liked the sound, so I'd like to keep using my RCA interconnects. Maybe some kind of adapter?

 

Oh wel, this sure has become an interesting quest. I like challenges :-)

 

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Vincent, It sounds to me like you are covering everything - Some manufacturers stated specs and capability lists *really* drive me nuts. RME isn't one of those. Eiderol is. I do not know the truth about the contradictions you have pinpointed with UA-101.

 

I don't believe that you are getting yourself into too much trouble by going 'studio style.' You sound like a gear-head, as I am, and I've yet to run up against anything that I couldn't find a satisfactory solution for. My focus is much more to the studio side rather than the home audio side however.

 

Thank you Vincent, by the way, for the link to RME showing me that a new firmware update has just been made available! - ... and that it is now VISTA compatible, they need to update the FF400 'facts' page on their website to reflect that.

 

On the Fireface 400, the Headphone, or channels "7/8" analog out on the FF400 is a 1/4" Stereo jack. The same jack that has been put on consumer home gear for stereo headphones for years and years. It is different in that it is software switchable via the Fireface Settings control panel to level outputs of "Hi Gain", "+4dBu" or "-10dBv". My AKG 240 Studio phones and my Sennheiser HD650's both LOVE it set to +4dBu. If you are connecting a headphone amp, you will probably want to switch down to -10dBv. I don't hear the need for a headphone amp with the RME though. It sounds perfect straight out at +4. Outputs 1-6 are 1/4" TRS/TS and are likewise switchable to the 3 different operating levels. A very nice setup. The unit is quite heavy as well. It has a 'quality' feel to it.

 

Analog Inputs 1 and 2 are combo connectors that accept either a male XLR or a TRS/TS 1/4" jack and are set to MIC level "only" - there is also a softswitch for 48V 'phantom voltage' meant to power certain microphones (or blow up ones that aren't designed to have that power switched on...). Inputs 3 and 4 are 1/4" TRS/TS and have either a 'Pad' or 'Instrument' Switch. Inputs 5-8 are all 1/4" TRS/TS jacks that are softswitchable between "Lo Gain", "+4dBu" and "-10dBv". As far as I know, you can connect ANYthing to this unit. .... and I'm leaving out info: the 8 channel ADAT optical I/O, optical or coax SPDIF/AES EBU. A quite nice feature is the softswitch for SPDIF out: It operates at "Optical", "Professional", "Emphasis" and "Non-Audio" settings - ignoring digital copy protection data in the process.

 

It is true that you can go ahead and successfully 'unbalance' a TRS jack by using a two conductor TS 1/4" plug cable terminated at the other end with an RCA female (or male) connector. I use a few of them myself. I like the ones from Monster, but I really should just build my own. It is much cheaper to do. I do not like the converter dongles/adapters. They get noisy after a while due to the physical connections loosening.

 

The only problems I've found with operating in unblanced mode. is (1) One unbalanced cable unbalances the whole systesm, (2) when there are MANY devices connected to say, a mixer and some of those devices are radio frequency 'RF' noisy. The noisy devices I'm talking about are typically electric guitar amps, electric guitars themselves and many types of samplers and synthesizers. Unbalanced lines are touchy and will pick up and transmit that noise. Proper cable runs away from the noisy equipment in most cases fix that, but there are also ways of isolating unbalanced lines via isolation transformers and other devices. You most likely won't run into that though if you are only playing back music and using FM radio, CD, tape player and a turntable.

 

I really think that your only challenge - with the FF400 anyway - will be getting the proper cables. Everything else, including the software setup, will be quite straightforward and well documented. The manual is awesome in its own right. Did I mention that I love this thing?

 

That is more stuff than you wanted to know, but let me know if you have more questions please.

 

markr

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Markr, this really gives me confidence that the studio gear route is a viable option for me!

 

I've been doing some reading up and the FF400 does look very good - e.g. it is the only device in my studio gear list that explicitly mentions jitter elimination. While I wait for the Minerva details to come out, I'll do some TS-RCA cable searching in the Netherlands. The FF and the Minerva are now at the top of my list.

 

I'll probably never be recording anything, I'm strictly looking for a great hi-res DAC to play hi-res music from my laptop. You mentioned that you would recommend the FF400 over most other devices in the studio list, based on your experience. Since I'm only interested in the sound quality of hi-res music playback (and somewhat in the heaphone amp section), can you perhaps clarify how much of your preference is due to the sound playback quality? Especially with regards to hi-res music?

 

Thx again for all the info!

 

VincentH

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Cool on the Netherlands. We just took holiday in Amsterdam for a couple weeks. I get over to Cuijk once in a while. Well, after reading all this I might just try this thing at ripping some vinyl which is why I bought it in the first place. Recently I'm tempted to just grab a USB turntable (I'm soooo lazy).

 

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I just found another 24/192 capable USB 2.0 DAC with Vista support: the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0; I updated the article. Looks nice when you are on a low budget.

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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.. for the most part relate to my experience with recording live sound nowadays: I want it to sound just like what I heard while I recorded it. The FF400 does that. I suppose that is a testament to the parity of the A/D conversion section as compared to the D/A section. I know that there are other things that could be a factor there, but my system is pretty flat throughout (it doesn't HAVE to be though..), so I'm positive that I've made a great choice in A/D/A units. This unit satisfies me totally for both acoustic and electric/electronic styles of music. Recording and playback. It doesn't matter. It totally reveals crappy audio material while seemingly transparently relating the best audio in the way it ought to be to my ear.

 

For playback of prerecorded music - what you seem most interested in - I've not found this unit's equal at its price point. Its just that I don't look for solutions in the consumer audio world. This one's playback just keeps sounding better the higher the digital resolution goes. No worries there. I'm waiting for a 24/176 listening trial to happen soon.

 

Now, it could be that I've not 'found this unit's equal' for playback of prerecorded music because I have not focused on that particular aspect of sound in something like 20 years. Understand that that does not mean that I don't appreciate great audio playback - I believe that I have that now and I also believe that the "two types" of sound, studio and consumer, are joined at the hip. They cannot be separated - I searched for the better part of 30 years for great playback audio before moving to the pro side - digital audio made that much more affordable. Pre digital, I found great sound early on, in the 60's. I have to have great sound playback here to be able to properly monitor my recordings and that is a must for me in the studio. I know what it is and sounds like. I just haven't focused on what most folks who want great sound playback have focused- consumer gear-. I'm on the 'dark side', as it were.

 

I'm not interested in the 'home or consumer' audio world. The somewhat recent 'revelation' by consumer audio purveyors, re: computers and high resolution audio, is very late to the game in my opinion and I don't have the time or the money to dabble in the consumer realm. My opinions about the audio qualities of the FF400 however, don't mean much against those who have heard the great consumer oriented gear. .... Unless I'm right. ..... In my heart, I know I am right - this thing has been able to handle anything I can throw at it while consistently amazing me with its sound quality.

 

I suppose however, that one cannot really tell where one's system really ranks amongst all the others out there without hearing all the other possible system configurations. I don't feel the need to do that right now though. I have the equipment that fits my purposes.

 

I hope I clearly communicated where I'm coming from. I suppose that I should apply for a career with RME.

markr

 

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Markr, thx for this insight. You are certainly very clear and this background info makes your previous advice much more valuable to me. Your opinion that developments in the area of computer-based hi-res music in consumer audio seriously lag developments in the studio audio world confirms the impression with which I began my post.

 

Once you've had the 24/176 listening trial you mentioned, would you be prepared to share your findings here?

I'd sure appreciate.

 

VincentH

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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I will do my best to relay what I think. I really want to do this with the prerecorded material that is available out there now, rather than anything I record here. I feel that I could be a bit more non-biased, or accurate that way. -- I'm afraid that I don't describe the sound of music that I hear anywhere near as well as I hear it though. ;-)

 

markr

 

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Hi OP. Stumbled across this site. I understand that you want to get the highest quality possible and also keep your gear from being outdated. However keep in mind the current and future avaliability of hi-rez content. In general 24/192 content isn't avaliable today unless you want to record it yourself. Hi-rez content is pushing 24/96 now and there's not much uptake as most people can't hear the difference between 16 and 24/44.1/48 much less 44.1/48/96. The future of hi-rez will probably hang around 24/96 for a while as anything higher 1. doesn't have large enough market to justify the R&D/manufacturing costs and 2. is just too much data to push through current consumer technology.

 

Upsampling your music to 192 may increase quality. But its upsampling and I'll avoid getting into the debate here. Also where to do it in your audio chain?

 

4 pin firewire is enough to get your data to the DAC. The 6 pin firewire carries power along with data. There are 4-6 and 6-4 pin adaptors avaliable. If you're shooting for highest quality, you'll want an independent, outboard power supply for your dac anyway. For convenience, a single 6 pin firewire will work...but your headphone amp needs power too so more cables.

 

There's no big difference between the studio route and the audiophile route...except in general, the Audiophile gear looks a little nicer and is more expensive. Sound wize, each piece of gear has its own sound, irregardless if its studio or audiophile.

 

I listen with DAC1, Mini-DAC, and Stello DA220, among others and have recorded with M-audio and RME stuff. For listening, I avoid running any of the DAC's via USB/firewire. Instead, a quality sound card (old Lynx AES 16) outputting AES/EBU is fed to the the DACs. Any upsampling or EQ is done with hardware instead of in the computer. Keep the computer a pure transport, get a good data stream out of it, and process everything down the audio chain.

 

True, hi-end, data-buffered and corrected, USB/firewire DACs don't exist yet. There's rumors of Wadia working on one for a while, but nothing yet. Lots of ADCs exist though.

 

If you really need a one-box solution try the mini-dac and dac1. I have a Mini-dac USB version that does work with Vista in 24/48 with some tweaking. Not sure if anyone's got the firewire version running yet. The Mini-dac has an excellent smooth sound that pairs well with the RS1. The DAC1 USB (24/96 on USB) is more detailed and dry, amplifying the Grado sound a bit much. If you REALLY like the Grado sound, try the DAC1. Avoid the M-audio and RME stuff as its more for recording and has too much features you won't be using (and additional electronics that'll interfere with playback).

 

Best solution is to find a PCMCIA vista compatiable sound card that outputs bit-perfect then connect that to a stand alone audio system.

 

Most studio gear will ouput both balanced and unbalanced. TRS-RCA IC's will work fine as you're just throwing out one half of the balanced signal. Pro gear may run at slightly higher voltages, but the nice thing about pro-gear is that its very flexible and usually has a way (internal jumper) to lower voltages to consumer gear.

 

And regarding the Edriol speeds, most recording gear will state the overall transmission speeds, not each individual channel. So, USB1.1 will support 2 channels of 24/48 which adds up to an overall 24/96. Most annoying.

 

 

 

 

 

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I guess I will be the contrarian here: I only have experience with one "pro" design USB DAC and I consider it kind of mediocre. I know there are a lot of people on the forum who really like the "pro" sound and this is a popular piece. I don't. I also don't like overly stylized "audiophile" sound. I believe there is another route, which is both honest and refined. Most pro gear I have heard is honest but not refined.

 

Obviously, you should buy what you like. My only suggestion would be to hear it first and do some comparisons.

 

You have my permission to slap me about my head and shoulders, markr.

 

rick

 

 

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Hi mikeliao, yours is certainly a completely different take. I'm not interested in upsampling, or any other kind of processing, just want to get every bit of what's available out to my ears as straight-through as possible. I firmly believe in quality in quality out (and the opposite).

 

I don't really mind how mainstream hi-res content will become; for me, even if it's rare, it's like really good wine: you don't necessarily enjoy it very often, but when you do you enjoy it a LOT :-)

 

I would probably have gone with the Mini DAC if it had proper Vista support or even plans for that. Too bad. Thanks for your tips on RS1 pairing though.

 

Can you perhaps explain how come connecting a DAC through firewire would not be bit-perfect?

 

E.g. any external harddisk connected through firewire is bit-perfect at much higher and sustained bandwidth, so how come DACs cannot manage this? I'd say if that is so hard, just stick a heap of cheap memory inside a DAC (like 8 Gigs costs nothing) and buffer on that. Any mp3 player the size of a cigarette lighter can do this already. Admittedly I don't know the first thing about DAC implementation, so please enlighten me...

 

Also, if bit-loss would occur, how would this manifest itself? Would bit-loss be entire words being lost - like time gaps hickups or clicks - or bits being lost from words - resolution loss? Do DAC's report somehow when bit loss occurs (like a led signal)? Is bit-loss across firewire something that could theoretically occur in specific/rare circumstances (like sharing the bus with other devices or have a slow/busy computer - I don't plan on doing that) or rather something that you can expect to happen often even on an optimal setup?

 

Lots of question marks on this one in my head, hope you can clarify a bit or point me to some good resources.

 

Thx, Vincent

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Glad you 'stumbled across' us. -- just a second please, it will be 'neater' this way...

 

Hey Rick - No worries. I don't disagree with you: the best way determine your purchase is to listen to the units. Most of us here know what that is like in practice right now. **Oh, to be Chris. ... just sitting around waiting for the next audition unit to arrive (just kidding Chris - I know you're not 'just sitting'... )** We therefore (most of us) have to be here exchanging opinions instead of doing more listening. I love opinions. You yourself say you 'only have experience with one pro oriented DAC' and therefore don't like them. I'm good with that. It is honest. It is really difficult to find much more than a few of any types of DAC to properly listen to in one place at one time right now. At least on the pro side it is. I can (but don't want to) imagine what it is like on the consumer side. For our integration of the Computer into good audio, Pro digital stuff IS more complicated and there is more of it (established market). Consumer digital stuff is more limited in capability and selection right now (market not yet established). - when I grew up, you could both record and play back with your stereo system at a quality very like what you were recording. Everyone did it, even if they did it badly. I still like that. .... NOT doing it badly .....

 

Mike, I'm back: Thanks for your opinions and knowledge sharing. That is a lot of what keeps this website going. I too think that some of the 'spec writing' out there for the hardware of our avocation (profession?) is pretty atrocious (re: the Eiderol unit). But then it has always been spotty. You sound like you are someone who knows how high resolution is put together and regularly deals with it. As for the market's current status for material available above 24/96 goes: You are spot on. There is not much out there, and it will be a while before it gets a lot better. That is much of what this website is about though and a lot of readers here need to realize it: promoting the increasing availability of high resolution audio to the public instead of (ahem) becoming part of the 'herd mentality' that is the mp3 explosion; or even settling for the Redbook standard. Markets grow (hopefully) when people support them and actively seek them. Not because people sit around and wait for them to be created, But it is true that there is not much out there yet.

 

It sounds like you are a little more attuned to what is up with Vincent, and it seems that you most likely get a chance to sample a LOT more equipment than I do. I hope you take a little time to see what you can do to help him gather the resources to make his decision! Once again, thank you for your help here.

 

markr

PS: I hope I wasn't rude and cranky here. It was a rough day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hey mikeliao - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Thanks a bunch for sharing your opinion and experience with a very detailed post. You do have some great info and opinions, like using hardware rather than software to upsample or EQ - I agree 100%, but I will share my thoughts where they differ from yours :-)

 

"...The future of hi-rez will probably hang around 24/96 for a while as anything higher 1. doesn't have large enough market to justify the R&D/manufacturing costs and 2. is just too much data to push through current consumer technology..."

 

I do agree for the most part that high resolution will stick around 24/96 for a while, but I am a little confused about #2 above. Lately I've been listening to the new Reference Recordings HRx albums that are 24/176.4 through current consumer technology and everything sounds spectacular and playback works perfect. I am interested to hear a little more about where you are coming from on this one. I'm sure you have some good info behind the statement and it wold be cool to get it up on the site.

 

 

"True, hi-end, data-buffered and corrected, USB/firewire DACs don't exist yet. There's rumors of Wadia working on one for a while, but nothing yet."

 

This one is probably my biggest disagreement. Sure the manufacturers are a little slow bringing great USB/FireWire DACs to market, but I've heard some true high end DACs in this category. In addition the new DAC7 from Audio Research will not doubt be a true high end USB DAC based on what I've heard thus far. The Bryston BDA-1 will be no slouch either, I'm sure.

 

I think it is fair to discuss true high end separate from data-buffered and corrected. A product can be true high end no matter what the implementation is so I won't comment on anything but the sound. In existence right now there are a number of very high end USB and FireWire DACs that sound impeccable. Wavelength Audio and Empirical Audio design USB DACs that sound better than "most" high end traditional disc players. Right now I am reviewing the Weiss Engineering Minerva FireWire DAC. This is the best DAC I've ever heard and is truly high end. This DAC is playing back the HRx 24/176.4 albums at full resolution and I am blown away by the sound quality. I am interested to hear what your experience is with USB and FireWire DACs and where your opinion is coming from. I'm certainly not saying you are wrong, just that my experience has lead me to a different conclusion.

 

Thanks again for the post. I look forward to continuing the discussion :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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